BOSTON — COVID-19 is spreading so fast in California right now, the ICUs are bursting at the seams.
Some ambulances are reporting 3-plus hour waits for access to a hospital. Some hospitals are asking medics to not transport people with low chances of survival.
There are a lot of factors that have contributed to what California is going through right now: holiday gatherings, public fatigue, or even the more contagious variant of the virus detected in southern California. And of course, there is potential for all of those factors here in Massachusetts as well.
“It’s just call after call after call,” said dispatch supervisor Katie Stark. “The amount of 911 calls we receive and send our ambulances to is just out of control.”
Some California patients wheeled to the hospital front doors have to wait several hours just to then be directed to an outdoor tent.
Some waits were reported up to six hours.
“The ambulances that are provided have enough, medications oxygen, personnel to be self-sufficient for a certain amount of time,” said Chris Dibona, chief clinical officer of Brewster Ambulance Service as he sat in his Weymouth office.
He says right now we are miles away from California’s numbers. Patients they see may wait just 5-10 minutes, but they are monitoring projections months in advance.
“Based on the posture of the state. We’re doing a really good job to stay ahead of it mobilizing things early,” Dibona said. “The ability for surge capacity is quick and quite frankly, our state doesn’t have a problem pulling the trigger on that to get it up and running quickly.”
He says the combination of field hospitals and increased use in telehealth has so far kept our hospitals at bay.
“We’ve actually seen a decline in folks wanting to go to the hospital,” said Dibona. “They would rather, be treated in the home or use mobile integrated health or other navigational options to stay away from the medical facilities. They find it as a place to come down with COVID-19.”
But across the country, a different scene as an already overwhelmed state continues to see new highs almost every day.
“If this is the peak and the next couple of weeks we are going to get more, I think we are going to be in some trouble,” said critical care nurse Errol Barrientos.
Their calculations show the surge they are seeing right now is just from Thanksgiving, not Christmas or New Year’s Day.
Dibona says people should still call 911 right away if there are any new concerns or major events like waking up with chest pains, a heart attack stroke, fainting, collapse, or injury.
He says if you have chronic or mild conditions that you understand the limitations, and if you can get on a video call with a doctor, that’s a great option where you still have 911 as a backup. Another option more people are utilizing, he says, is the urgent care centers where you can be treated and discharged quickly without burdening the ER.
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